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What does the national truck driver shortage mean for Michigan?

November 3, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

The National Truckers Association estimates there is a shortage of about 200,000 trucks on the road in North America.

I often write about the incredibly dangerous safety shortcuts that the trucking industry takes today, such as employing “grasshopper” truck drivers who have caused too many truck accidents or killed too many people who then “hop” from state to state. Or the chameleon carriers I see, small trucking companies that compile too many safety violations, change their names, and often start doing business as a brand new company.

The trucker shortage has a lot of very dangerous repercussions to all of our safety, and it creates a powerful profit incentive for trucking companies to hire unfit and unsafe drivers, cut safety corners and underbid the good companies on price.  And that seriously threatens us all.

My favorite truck drivers are the Teamsters.  Yes, I am personally friends with a few.  But they also don’t put up with crap such as pressure from safety directors to drive over hours or skip pre-trip inspections.  These truck drivers tend to take safety extremely seriously.

The solution seems to be, well, capitalism.  Treat truck drivers well, pay them fairly, and you will have good truck drivers.  Try to save a few bucks, and hire unsafe drivers because you can pay them less, and there will be  more truck accidents, deaths and injuries.

The turnover rate for truckers in the past was about 20 percent, but it has reached 200 percent today, according to Phillip Winter, spokesman for the National Truckers Association, who was quoted in an Mlive article, National truck driver shortage leaves companies looking for truckers.

It seems as if older drivers are retiring and younger drivers aren’t filling their seats. Much of this is because pay hasn’t caught up to the pressures and stress of the job.  Because the seats aren’t being filled, trucking companies will likely hire drivers from other states, as I’ve written about before from my own personal experiences. These will be drivers with more preventable truck accidents under their belts, dangerous medical conditions, or past drunk driving or drug use (amazing, but felons can be truck drivers), and other safety offenses.

Remember this next time you’re around a big commercial truck.

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